Review: 'The Mummy' is a Messy, Entertaining Start to a Dark Universe
by Jeremy Kirk
June 9, 2017
The goal for many studios used to be the franchise, a series of films under the umbrella of a recognizable name with which to sell that franchise. Now, thanks in large part to the success Marvel is having, that concept of the franchise has morphed into a "cinematic universe" with any number of "franchises" coming together in a shared series of narratives to create something much larger. Some of these cinematic universes come together naturally over time, but some are forced together in order for the studio at hand to bank on an entire slate of motion picture releases. The latter tends to come off as just that, forced, and this is the area in which Universal and their idea for a "Dark Universe" seems to be residing. Their idea is to bring their classic movie monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein's Monsters, Invisible Man, et al.) into the modern age to create an epic series of films beginning with the catalyst for their cinematic universe, The Mummy.
Aided by the presence of a bona fide, A-list star (that being Tom Cruise), The Mummy falls for every trick in the cinematic universe playbook. Despite the film's capability for blockbuster fun, it ultimately amounts to a luxurious, state-of-the-art, beautifully constructed cart that is just being tossed around and beat to shit by the idiotic horses pulling it along. It's a mess of a picture, one that screams "too many cooks," but even with all that is going against it, The Mummy succeeds in a number of areas, chiefly its ability to entertain. You may not be ready for the proposed Dark Universe. You may not have even asked for it, but Universal's idea for kickstarting a world for their movie monsters is ripe with potential, its kitchen sink attitude offering up both good and bad elements that may or may not ultimately give us something with a much larger scale.
In this modern-day retelling of The Mummy story (first seen in 1932 with Karl Freund's The Mummy), we're introduced to Nick Morton (Cruise), a fortune hunter who's latest escapades have led him to Iraq. There, along with his partner-in-crime Sgt. Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), and a genuine archeologist, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), they discover an ancient, hidden tomb, the resting place of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Ahmanet's attempt to bring the Egyptian god, Set, to the mortal world ended in disaster and the princess being buried alive thousands of years before. Naturally, the treasure hunters unearth the tomb bringing the cursed princess back to life in the modern world, and all hell proceeds to be raised with her.
As the team attempts to find and put an end to Ahmanet's dark deeds, they uncover much more in the way of nefarious dealings in our modern-day world. The supernatural connection Nick has with the ancient princess creates a link that could be used to help capture her, but there is also a secretive order attempting to find the cursed creature as well. Led by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), this organization is aware of the mysterious and dangerous creatures that work in the dark parts of the world, and Ahmanet may be the most dangerous creature they've yet faced.
The issues with The Mummy's screenplay reveal themselves very early on in the movie. The "too many cooks" issue – I won't list all of the screenwriters who worked on this movie, but you can see them on IMDb – give us not one but two introductions into this newfangled, cinematic universe. Much of the film's opening is spent on exposition that establishes the ins and outs of this new world with Crowe's Dr. Jekyll providing an abundance of voiceover narration to catch us up. If you're ever confused by the convoluted plot, though, fear not. The film frequently drops into flashbacks for peak explanation, oftentimes going back to review a piece of information you've been given only a few minutes before.
Nonetheless, the screenplay bounces between set pieces in lieu of simplicity or clarity. A few occasions arise that see certain characters flipping their intentions or motivations completely around for the sake of story progression. At one point Wallis' archeologist, who may or may not know more about this dark underworld than she initially lets on, is trying to convince Cruise's naïve soldier of the supernatural forces at work. It's only a few minutes later that she's trying to convince him of the exact opposite, and, while story beats help fill these holes in logic to a certain extent, it's all so vaguely expressed that you'd be forgiven for thinking the movie is at odds with itself.
The one element the film is not at odds with is in the way it drops and executes its action. Directed by Alex Kurtzman, himself more a screenwriter than director (his feature directorial debut was People Like Us in 2012), The Mummy utilizes the very best modern, cinematic technology has to offer, even if those action set pieces come off somewhat derivative. The first hour of The Mummy plays like a nonstop romp, each sequence moving at a brisk pace to the next, extravagant sequence loaded down with special effects and lighthearted violence. The film's first act is anchored by a plane sequence that is nothing if not breathtaking, and it isn't difficult to realize why Kurtzman was given the directing job in the first place.
The film's back half delves more into world building and setup for the Dark Universe that is to come, but very little time goes by where there isn't something exhilarating or jaw-dropping being unleashed. Cruise's ability to poke fun at himself and play the weakling up against overpowering forces is also a welcome presence and, convoluted or not, the overall experience the movie is conveying is one of absolute entertainment. It's also just so easy to get bogged down in how slipshod the overall narrative is.
As with 2014's Edge of Tomorrow, Cruise goes all out in the self-deprecation department. He spends much of The Mummy confused and trying to play catch-up or being comically tossed about the room by Boutella or Crowe. It doesn't help that the role was clearly written for a younger actor, and even Cruise's presence frequently becomes something of a distraction to the movie's story and character development. Still, the actor's commitment to the role is undeniable, and he's often paying service to the supporting actors with which he shares scenes. Boutella is downright awesome as the eponymous villain, and Crowe hams it up so much you expect him to break into song at any minute. Johnson delivers casual, comic relief when necessary, but much of his role is hindered by its derivative and clichéd nature. Wallis, unfortunately, is forgettable and ultimately wasted, a clear victim of the screenwriting issues that pop up throughout the film.
Still, The Mummy, with its endless barrage of action, set pieces and impressive visual effects, ends up being a much more entertaining movie than it deserves to be. The notion that the film's troop of screenwriters couldn't have had a better handle on its narrative is noticeable, but Kurtzman's abilities when it comes to blockbuster, action direction are undeniable. The Mummy succeeds in more areas than it fails, and, in this day and age of horrendous works by committee, that should be recognized as a success. Universal's "Dark Universe" has much work to do if the cinematic world is to be viewed as much more than studio content. As it is, though, The Mummy is a fine piece of entertainment that asks you to forgive its many faults.
Reader Feedback - 23 Comments
tarek on Jun 9, 2017
Because he said that it was a disappointing movie with some redeeming value. Could work for some and not for others. I don't think that it will work for me, but I can see myself watching it and enjoying some bits on my tv.
tarek on Jun 9, 2017
;D girls will be the ruin of our souls...or its blessing? ;D Take care Bo.
tarek on Jun 9, 2017
"Too many cooks" is the primary reason that many franchises with potential are DOA. I'm looking at you John Carter! Also, another pet peeve; treating the audience like they're idiots, constantly spoon feeding plot points with flashbacks/reminders and not allowing the movie to speak for itself. If you dial back this crap Hollywood, your franchises will have a fighting chance. I'm anticipating that the Mummy will suffer the same fate as King Arthur.
THE_RAW_ on Jun 9, 2017
I had high hopes after watching the trailer...will watch when its on Netflix
BeckhamsShorts on Jun 9, 2017
It was BORING and completely senseless. Almost fell asleep a few times if it wasn't for the guy snoring beside me. Too much thrown together. If they had just stuck to The Mummy and not the the whole monsterverse,
tyban81 on Jun 9, 2017
That mishap with the sound trailer kind of put a black spot on this film for me. At least he had fun...maybe.
DAVIDPD on Jun 9, 2017
Am i the only one who liked the mummy movies with Brandon Fraser? They where funny and had great CGI added to it. Why in havens name does universal think that 100 year stories are going to interest young people, who watch hardcore Henry, John wick and Wolf creek for instance? Is there nobody at Universal who is younger than 30? Ps hardcore Henry is a classic, it's Uber cool! Pps John wick 2 is a enjoyable ride, but comes nowhere near chapter 1..
ari smulders on Jun 9, 2017
Great CGI? I still have nightmares with the Scorpion King in them.
Oriyan J. Ovadia on Jun 10, 2017
Haha, you are indeed pointing out the bad CGI of the movies. But overall it's decent for those days...
ari smulders on Jun 10, 2017
Most of the CGI in the older Mummy films still hold up. But yes the scorpion king looked fake even then. They should have used practical effects and stopmotion.
Chrichtonsworld on Jun 10, 2017
CyraNOSE on Jun 12, 2017
John Wick 2 is a lot better than the first since it's directed like a Hong Kong movie. You can tell since the action is choreographed a whole lot better. If you meant plot wise then perhaps. But if you are watching John Wick for the story then you have been missing the point completely. Also so only people younger than 30 get to enjoy movies nowadays? Don't be ridiculous. I am in my forties and am a huge film fan. Age has nothing to with that. You either are one or you aren't. Hardcore Henry was a very good film but only time will tell if it's a classic or not. Personally I am not a fan of reboots or remakes. But I do get what Universal is trying to do. With Kong they have succeeded to follow up the MonsterVerse. This Darkuniverse though seems to be doomed to fail and not because of the 100 year old stories since those are awesome. But because they fail to capture the essence of what made people like those old horror movies in the first place. Dracula Untold was a good attempt into bringing life to Dracula however it was far too similar to Castlevania: Lords of the Shadow and more action orientated than horror. Dracula needs to be more than an action hero. He needs to scare people. Same goes for The Mummy. I am not sure why The Wolfman (2010) has been discarded and they want to reboot it yet again since it was quite solid. I love crossovers. Especially when done right. But they should focus on making a good film first and then try to make it fit into a bigger universe. All these studios are trying to catch up to Marvel only they seem to be forgetting that Marvel had years of practice before they got it right.
Chrichtonsworld on Jun 10, 2017
A lot of people will not agree with you on John wick 2,look at the ratings. It's the same thing done over again. And don't talk about the plot, it's completely ridiculous like the first one. But hey, i liked the action in it. Hardcore Henry will reach the cult status, because it's different than the rest, and consistent in his story and cinematography. Yes, old guys making movies in Hollywood, last week we had a king Arthur story hahaha...
ari smulders on Jun 10, 2017
I don't care about ratings. I judge movies on their own quality. And you obviously can't comprehend English because my whole argument was the fact that John Wick and the sequel have poor stories. You never mentioned what you liked about John Wick and since you kind of were complaining about the action in part 2 which is superior to the action in the original I felt the need to respond since you obviously don't know what you are talking about. The John Wick movies are a throwback to Hong Kong style action films made in the Eighties and Nineties in contemporary setting with contemporary storytelling. Keanu Reeves himself is doing most of the action himself to make the gun fu more authentic like they did in Hong Kong. Hardcore Henry would not have existed without those films. And the only real special element to Hardcore Henry is the first person perspective. If they had shot it in third person it would have been very similar to a typical Hong Kong action flick. I haven't seen the King Arthur film but my arguments stand. The old stories need to be respected and deserve better treatment. Guy Ritchie by definition doesn't respect the source materials. He has screwed up Sherlock Holmes as well. Also I don't think you are aware that most films have been retelling old well known stories.
Chrichtonsworld on Jun 10, 2017
Haha not aware. I watched movies when you where sperm in your father's balls. The whole problem is you want it to be better, when the majority don't give a fuck about Hong Kong style or whatever. It's what's people think when the movie ends. End they think the same as me, enjoyable but not John wick 1. And by the way, in this genre is the raid numero Uno, hands down. Ps i am from the Netherlands (Europe), do you speak fluently German, Dutch or Spanish?
ari smulders on Jun 11, 2017
I watched and loved movies before I was conceived. Ever heard of reincarnation? The fact that you need to tell me that you are older than me, like that makes you smarter or something, tells me you know less than I initially gave you credit for. I don't really care that much about what you think since I know I am right. Go read on about John Wick chapter 2 and how it is made. Then you will figure out for yourself what the idea was and how it has succeeded. Real cinephiles know how big the influence of Hong Kong cinema has been on many of the modern action movies today whether you like it or not is irrelevant. Especially since you and the people you refer to know nothing about cinema and it's history. En ik ben geboren en getogen in Nederland wijsneus. Ik weet dat je uit Nederland komt vanwege je naam. Wat wil je daarmee zeggen? Ich kan auch sehr gut Deutsch sprechen. Denkst du daß du die einige bist die verschiedene Sprachen mächtig is? Je mag dan wel Engels spreken, dat wil niet automatisch zeggen dat je het ook begrijpt. In my first reply to you I pointed out to you that the John Wick movies are action films. John Wick chapter 2 gives you more action and more insight of the world John Wick lives in. And yes you have the right to like it less. But that that tells me that you are not the audience the film was intended for. Which is fine. You come in with some backwards rhetoric how Hollywood should stop telling old stories. And frankly I agreed with you on that to a degree since I also want them to tell original stories or at least stories that are more fresh and creative. However some old stories will always be retold since they are simply very good and deserve to be retold. Why do you think the Bible is so popular? Because whether you believe it or not some of the stories written in the Bible are very good. Same goes for Shakespeare and the old tales about Dracula, Frankenstein, zombies and mummies.
Chrichtonsworld on Jun 11, 2017
Aaah een intellectuele cinefiel die mij en het publiek uitlegt waarom deel twee beter was, maar over het algemeen deel 1 beter vinden. Maar goed have it your way...
ari smulders on Jun 13, 2017
Yes you are the only one.
CyraNOSE on Jun 12, 2017
Don't listen to these haters. The 1999 Mummy was awesome. Actual location shooting, a Jerry Goldsmith score and much more humor than this dour mess.
Boiler Bro Joe on Jun 14, 2017
Agreed. Love the 1999 Mummy movie. One of my favorite guilty pleasures. Even though it's actually pretty damn good, so nothing guilty about it. Feels like an anomaly in terms of being so good for what it was.
Alex Billington on Jun 14, 2017
Yes i liked the mummy, and especially the humor in it! I even found the mummy returns more funnier.And don't forget the beauty of Patricia valasquez...
ari smulders on Jun 14, 2017
I saw it...amazing movie. Way better than the marvel crap coming out
Quanah on Jun 10, 2017
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